RI officials talk a lot about new PawSox stadium plan, don’t say much of anything

In the wake of Rhode Island’s governor saying she might be okay with spending as much as $35 million on a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, several politicians in the state spent yesterday backing away from any such thing, including the governor herself:

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, insists any legislative package involving state financing of a new stadium must arrive with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stamp of approval.

“I have no bill. I have no legislation. No proposals. No nothing,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I just got their press packet today …. I will look at it in my leisure, which I have none. It’s not my issue.”

And:

Although [Gov. Gina] Raimondo on Tuesday and again on Wednesday afternoon rattled off multiple reasons why she concludes the proposal appears to “pay for itself,” “would be self-supportive,” is a “much better, much more reasonable proposal than last time,” her spokesman Mike Raia insisted Wednesday morning that “The Governor did not endorse the deal or throw her support behind it, as [The Providence Journal] reported.”

Raimondo did say that the latest team proposal (which, as Mattiello noted, isn’t really a formal proposal) is better than the team’s previous one, something that Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio echoed. But for now, this looks like lots of “we want to do something for the team, but we’re not going to make any commitments until we see which way the winds are blowing” posturing, which is about right for this stage of the game. Though “you’re not going to get a dime of public money until you can show clear and unassailable public benefits” works too, maybe somebody might want to try that?

RI governor says she’d consider spending $35m on new PawSox stadium, let the haggling begin

Ever since then-Pawtucket Red Sox owner James Skeffington demanded a $60 million subsidy for a new stadium and then up and died, his successor Larry Lucchino has been keeping the new-stadium campaign on simmer, saying he still wants some kind of public money, just he’s not sure how much or for a stadium where. Now, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has put a price tag on what the state will offer, or at least a maximum, maybe:

On Friday, Gov. Gina Raimondo told The Providence Journal the state should pay “certainly no more” than $35 million. That’s the first time she has publicly stated any dollar amount under consideration.

Why $35 million? That’s the amount that, the Providence Journal reports, “consultants” say it would cost to “cure structural deficiencies” at McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ current home. That would appear to be this study, which includes everything from fixing cracked sidewalks to replacing all the seats and player lockers, to the point where it’s tough to tell what should be considered “renovation” and what “maintenance” (i.e., stuff you’d need to do in a new stadium sooner or later anyway), not to mention how much should be “stuff the team that actually plays there and uses it should pay for.”

Note, incidentally, that there’s a perfectly reasonably precedent by which owners of buildings pay for things and charge their tenants for it: It’s called “rent.” And really, that’s what Gov. Raimondo should be thinking about: Not how much the state or city would put in up front, but that if the public is going to help finance a new building, the PawSox should pay it off over time with increased rent.

Right now, though, it looks like nobody’s talking about how a stadium lease would work, only how up-front costs would work, which is dunderheaded but also standard operating procedure in these matters. Anyway, Lucchino wouldn’t comment of Raimondo’s sort-of offer beyond to say that it was “interesting,” so there’s still likely to be plenty of haggling ahead on this one.

PawSox CEO: How about public gives us lots of money, we give them worthless deed to stadium?

Pawtucket Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino announced yesterday that he wants a new stadium in Pawtucket, paid for with the help of an undisclosed amount of public money — pretty much the same thing he said a year and a half ago when he was last heard from on this matter. But this time it’s different, says Lucchino, because it would be a publicly owned stadium:

The concept of a publicly owned stadium is a “complete reversal” from the team’s failed 2015 efforts to win public support for a privately owned stadium on former highway land in Providence, Lucchino said.

Uhhh. Dude. You know that public ownership of a stadium is mostly just a dodge to get out of paying property taxes, right? If Lucchino were proposing to let the city of Pawtucket actually control the stadium’s revenues, and maybe charge his team rent for playing there, that might qualify as a complete reversal, but needless to say he didn’t propose any of that.

Anyway, I’ve already been invited to appear on one radio show and one webcast (neither of which are at times I can make, unfortunately) to talk about this latest “announcement,” so clearly Lucchino’s statement accomplished what he set out to do, which is to jump-start talk about a new stadium, even after his last stadium funding request was roundly rejected and he promised to shut up about stadiums for five years so he could focus on healing “wounds that were suffered by fans” when he threatened to move the team to Worcester. If I were going on the radio, here’s what I’d say: “Don’t feed the trolls, people.”

PawSox promise to spend five years healing fan “wounds” before threatening to move again

Pawtucket Red Sox chair Larry Lucchino has switched gears, saying he’s now happy to have the team stay in Pawtucket or play anywhere — so long as there’s a new stadium involved:

‘‘We think a new ballpark is important to fulfilling the vision we have for this franchise,’’ Lucchino said after a news conference presenting the team’s new leadership.

When asked if a new ballpark must be somewhere other than Pawtucket, he replied: ‘‘At this point, we’ve taken a position that we’re open to everything, every possibility.’’

Getting a new stadium with public money in Pawtucket doesn’t sound real likely in the short term, since they’d have to go through the same state government that rejected handing over cash for a new stadium in Providence. If anything, it sounds as if the team’s owners are shifting their stadium plans into long-term mode, with team president Charles Steinberg (like Lucchino, a former Boston Red Sox exec) saying the team is committed to staying in Pawtucket for five more years, and that there’s “a repair job to do here” on “wounds that were suffered by fans” during the Providence move threat. In other words: Please come see our games again even though we said we were leaving! We promise we’ll love you for at least another five years!

Somebody in Worcester sends PawSox a letter saying “Pick us! Pick us!”

A nonprofit community development group in Worcester is interested in wooing the Pawtucket Red Sox to their city, which is mostly notable for the awesome lede that the Worcester Telegram gave to its story about this:

Someone with a letterhead is interested in talking with the Pawtucket Red Sox about possibly moving here, and has advice on building a ballpark to accommodate any such relocation.

That about says it all, though I’d add that 1) the Worcester Canal District Alliance doesn’t have the $60 million in stadium subsidies that PawSox owners say they’re looking for, and 2) that had better be one hell of a letterhead, because the Canal District Alliance sure doesn’t have much of a website.

Worcester, Springfield mayors would consider hosting PawSox, less enthused if it costs money

Five days after Pawtucket Red Sox managing partner Larry Lucchino interrupted his birthday party to say he’d be looking for more New England cities to ask for stadium money now that he’d struck out with Providence, there is no shortage of mayors kicking the tires:

John Hill, spokesman for Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., said while the city is open to discussions with the team, he wouldn’t say whether Augustus would support building a new stadium…

James Leydon, a spokesman for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, said the city has a rich history of minor league baseball.

“The mayor would be very open to a conversation with the PawSox on bringing baseball back to Springfield,” Leydon said.

Well, sure, who wouldn’t be open to having a team move to your city? But what about the spending lots of money on a new stadium part that Lucchino wants?

Hill reiterated that Augustus has no intention of using public money to finance a stadium…

Leydon wouldn’t say whether Sarno would consider building a new stadium for the PawSox or using public money for one.

It sounds here like WCVB-TV in Boston just called around to every mayor’s office they could think of for comment, and got a couple of bites, though pretty noncommittal ones. Neither Springfield nor Worcester has an existing minor-league stadium, unless you want to count Worcester’s converted 91-year-old football stadium, which is even older than the stadium in Pawtucket that the Sox are trying to leave. In other words: Call me when you have an actual offer, guys.

Providence stadium plan is dead, PawSox to look for new city to shake down for cash

Plans for a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox in Providence using $60 million in state subsidies and free parkland are officially dead, according to PawSox managing partner Larry Lucchino:

Lucchino said Governor Raimondo “communicated to our partners” that the site wasn’t suitable.

Negotiations for a Triple-A ballpark on that site have “ceased … The project is not going to happen at that site,” [House Speaker Nicholas] Mattiello said.

Score one for the kite fliers! Though not a very big one, as Lucchino also indicated that he’ll just take his desire for a new publicly funded stadium elsewhere in Rhode Island, or maybe to another state entirely:

Lucchino said the team is still looking in Rhode Island, but he said he would not talk further Saturday night. He said he was returning The Journal’s phone call from his birthday celebration with family in Pittsburgh. Asked whether any Massachusetts communities have reached out to the team, Lucchino said, “No comment.”

As for staying at McCoy Stadium, a popular and historic ballpark built in 1942 and renovated in 1998, Mattiello called it “a model that no longer works,” though he didn’t specify how. Lucchino previously claimed that re-renovating McCoy would cost $65 million, but didn’t specify how — you’re starting to get the picture here, I’m sure.

Anyway, expect everyone to go back to their corners for a bit now while Lucchino finishes his birthday cake and seeks out cities in different states that he can pit against each other. There may be other tactics team owners can use to argue for a new stadium, but without the move threat — idle or otherwise — it’s hardly even worth trying.

Rhode Island protesters fly kites to oppose taking parkland for PawSox stadium

I haven’t reported much on the Pawtucket Red Sox‘ demand for a new stadium in Providence ever since the team’s owner up and died in May right in the middle of his stadium campaign. The campaign continues on without him under former Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, though, as does public opposition to the $60 million in cash subsidies plus free land that team execs are asking for. And yesterday, about 150 opponents of the deal descended on the proposed riverfront stadium site flying kites and carrying beach chairs, to demand that the land be used as a public park as was intended when a highway was moved to create it in the first place:

The I-195 Commission, a state agency, bought most of the land and is reselling it, although some was given for free to use as a public park, including the 5-acre parcel the Pawtucket Red Sox, a Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, want to build on.

Johnston resident Don Bianco said taking the land away from residents who want an open space public park would be “borderline criminal.”

“There will never again be the possibility of a waterfront park in downtown Providence,” Bianco said.

Citizens with kites aren’t the only ones with a problem with the proposed PawSox deal, with the federal government also saying it’d want to be reimbursed the $4 million value of the park land if it’s instead given to the team, while Brown University is so far balking at selling an adjacent parcel that it owns for what would become left field. The state legislature doesn’t plan to meet to discuss any of this until next January, so expect lots more behind-the-scenes haggling in the interim.

PawSox claim renovating existing stadium would cost $65m, won’t say where they got that number

The mayor of Pawtucket, which is set to lose the Pawtucket Red Sox to nearby Providence if the team owners’ demands for a taxpayer-subsidized new stadium go through, has requested that PawSox management release its study showing that renovations to 73-year-old McCoy Stadium would be prohibitively expensive at $65 million. And how do you think that’s going?

When asked whether the team would release the study, PawSox spokeswoman Patti Doyle said Lucchino “will most certainly respond” to Grebien’s request for a meeting, but she did not address whether the team would release the study.

This is kind of key, since teams have been, dare I say it, less than truthful about renovation costs in the past. (The most notable example may have been the Detroit Tigers in the 1990s, who declared that it would cost a then-astronomical $100 million to repair Tiger Stadium, only to have it later discovered that this was the projected cost for a massive renovation that would have included installing a dome over the building.) This probably isn’t actionable under freedom of information laws, but it’s still worth journalists inquiring about this as well; I’ll call over to the team offices later today and report back on what, if anything, they say.

PawSox owner says $65m renovation needed for current stadium, dies of heart attack

Pawtucket Red Sox owner James Skeffington’s campaign to get $60 million in stadium subsidies plus free land for moving a few miles to Pawtucket hit an obstacle this weekend when Skeffington unexpectedly died of a heart attack. The Rhode Island attorney was 73.

Shortly before Skeffington’s death was announced, the team put out a press statement saying that McCoy Stadium, the team’s current home in Pawtucket, would need $65 million in renovations to be made “state-of-the-art,” a figure that city officials told the Boston Globe seemed ‘‘extraordinarily high.’’ Nobody quite knows what will happen now with Skeffington gone, as he was the driving force behind the Providence stadium campaign, but that won’t stop people from speculating wildly in print.